Could you imagine how the world would change if we had a reliable way to positively impact the mental health of people suffering from depression and anxiety?
According to Statista, about 20% of adults in the United States struggle with mild to moderate depression, a conservative number compared to other sources.
That translates to 51.5 million people.
Here’s what’s crazy: we have an intervention that’s 1.5x more effective than medication and therapy for mild to moderate depression.
It’s called exercise.
According to this STUDY which examined 97 reviews comprising 128,119 participants with various chronic mental health disorders and chronic diseases, exercise was 1.5 times more effective at treating depression and anxiety.
Why that matters
Mental health issues are among the most significant contributors to the global cost of healthcare. Within mental health disorders, depression is the largest contributor, and anxiety is the most common.
Mental health disorders globally cost an estimated $2.5 billion, more than many small countries' GDP.
Ok, so mental illnesses cost a lot of money; that sucks, but it is what it is, right?
Let’s make this more real.
In 2019, one in 8 people worldwide was affected by a mental health disorder, and 44% will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
That means that 12.5% of the people you know are battling a mental illness, and nearly half of the people you see every single way will do the same at some point during their lifetime.
Why isn’t exercise the first treatment?
These statistics are interesting, and they bring up an important question, “Why isn’t exercise being prescribed as the primary treatment for depression and anxiety?”
Simple, it's challenging to get mentally healthy people to exercise; it’s exponentially harder to get depressed and anxious people to do it.
On top of that, mental health professionals aren’t equipped to track or prescribe fitness to their patients.
Hopefully, this study and intrepid trailblazers in the mental health space will change that. Until then, YOU can take these facts into consideration for your mental health.
What should you do?
The American Guidelines for Physical Activity are 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise, and 2 days of strengthening activities per week is a great place to start.
These guidelines won’t put you on any podiums, but they are an effective method against many chronic diseases.
If you want to go deeper, there were 2 other interesting findings in the same study.
They found that higher-intensity workouts had a more significant effect on the participants' mental health, and they found that shorter workouts were also more effective than longer, drawn-out ones.
That means pragmatically that you don’t need to live in the gym to enjoy the protective mental health benefits of exercise.
You need to get in, work hard, and then get out and live your life.